DAKAR Russian shipowners have paid a fine of 600 million CFA francs ($1.24 million) to Senegal to free two trawlers seized for fishing illegally off the West African state, in an incident that stoked diplomatic tensions with Moscow.
The trawlers, the Oleg Naydenov and the Captain Bogomolov, were seized on January 4 near Senegal's maritime border with Guinea-Bissau. Russia's Foreign Ministry had immediately sought an explanation from Senegal for their capture.
"A grouping of Russian shipowners paid 400,000,000 CFA francs ($827,200) for the Oleg Naydenov and 200,000,000 CFA francs ($413,600) for the Captain Bogolov," Mayoro Mbaye, a Senegalese adviser to the Russian shipowners, told Reuters.
A Russian diplomat, who declined to be named, confirmed the shipowners had paid $1.24 million to the Senegalese treasury to free their boats.
Illegal fishing, mostly by trawlers from the former Soviet bloc, costs Senegal an estimated 120 billion CFA francs ($250 million) a year, according to official figures.
Russia's federal fishing agency said that the Oleg Naydenov trawler had been in the territorial waters of neighboring Guinea-Bissau and had not been fishing at the time of its seizure.
Russian media quoted its captain, Vadim Mantorov, as complaining about what he called an excessive use of force by Senegalese forces.
(Reporting By Diadie Ba; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Ralph Boulton)